Tag Archives: crafts

What Can I Do?

 file6151244762637About half-way through the summer, when the initial thrill of summertime wears off, my children will come to me and say, “There’s nothing to do!” Now, deep down they know that’s a mistake, because they can always work on schoolwork – practicing their math facts, writing essays, etc. But because I love summer too, I give them a few fun options to choose from:

 1. Read a book by themselves, or read to their little brother.

 2. Make a wordless book. Draw the whole story – no words allowed.

3. Play with play dough. For less than $1 a can (off-brands are even cheaper), it’s an inexpensive way to entertain little ones.

4. Paint their faces (older children can paint their own if they have a mirror). Craft acrylics work well for face paint. Have the children put on old clothes (the paint doesn’t come out of clothing) and give them a couple of colors to choose from. Be sure not to paint around their eyes or mouth.

5.  Play in the sprinkler or hose.

6. Use the hose to make mud pies. Decorate the mud pies with twigs and flowers.

7. Play with bubbles outside. I like to use the large container of bubbles from Wal-Mart and flyswatters. Pour some of the bubbles into a bowl. Give each child a flyswatter to stick into the bubbles. As they wave the flyswatter around, hundreds of tiny bubbles will appear.

8. Make a robot. Use empty boxes, paper towel tubes, and toilet paper tubes. Pull out all of your craft supplies – markers, glue, popsicle sticks, sequins, paper, pom-poms, and see what the kids come up with.

If none of these ideas interest them, they could also:

9. Clean the bathroom.

10. Fold laundry.

11. Sweep outside.

12. Do the dishes.

With these options in the mix, they suddenly find something to do, and the summer fun continues.

Literature Class

a-booksAlthough we weren’t involved in a co-op this past year, my children were part of a literature class put together by a couple of homeschool moms. Yesterday was our class for April.

Our literature class meets the fourth Thursday of the month from 10:00 – 11:30 at the centrally-located home of one of the families. Students divide up into four groups: grades K-3rd,4th-5th, 6th-8th, and 9th-12th.

Every month, students in each group are assigned a book to read – one that can be easily found at our local library. Some of the books they’ve read this year include Misty; The Whipping Boy; Shiloh; Sarah Plain and Tall; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe;, The Cricket in Times Square; Carry On, Mr. Bowditch; A Wrinkle in Time; Call It Courage; and The Bronze Bow. Then, when we meet together, students break up into their groups in different rooms of the house to discuss the book they’ve read, with one of the moms leading the discussion.

The K-3rd group is the largest group, so they usually meet in the living room. This younger group reads one or two picture books and then work on a corresponding activity, such as making a craft. This past week they read a story about a dog and made “dog” biscuits that were actually baked treats for the kids. Of course, not all of them were shaped like dog biscuits – the children shaped them into stars, squares, and even a rock.

The class has lent itself to other activities as well. When the middle school class was reading The Hiding Place, a special guest was brought in who was a girl in Holland during the Holocaust. When the older elementary students were reading Tall Tales, they created their own tall tales and shared them with each other.

With only one class to go for this school year, literature class has been a great way to get together while reading good books!

Photo by Faeyran

Abstract Fun

abstractOnce a week, I teach art lessons from my home to homeschool students. Most of our projects involve drawing or painting from life or photographs. But as we are finishing up the classes for this year, we decided it would be fun to have a day of abstract art.

I have a class of boys ages nine to twelve that meets every other Tuesday, so yesterday we gave modern art a try. We used several different methods of painting the masterpieces, the best being spatter painting. It was an easy and (according to the boys) a very enjoyable project. This is what we did:

1. First, each student put on a paint shirt if they weren’t wearing old clothes. Painting can get messy!

2. Then, for each student, I supplied a half sheet of posterboard to paint on. We went outside and nailed the posterboard to a tree with just one nail in the center at the top.

3. Next, they chose the colors they wanted for their paintings. We used craft acrylic paints, and they squeezed them out onto styrofoam plates (their palettes).

4. The students then chose the brush or brushes they wanted to use. I had a container on the ground with brushes of all sizes, including larger house-painting brushes. I also had a container of water available for them to wash out their brushes when they needed to.

5. Then the paint went flying! Each boy stood in front of his paper and spattered the paint by using quick flips of the wrist.

It was interesting to me to see how deliberate the boys were in their choice of colors and where they made the paint go. Each painting was a unique original, and, by the boys’ reactions, a lot of fun to create!

Make Your Own Letterboxing Stamp

Besides the fun of the hunt, letterboxing also offers opportunities for artistic expression, as many letterboxers create their own rubber stamps with original designs. If your family enjoys letterboxing, here’s an easy way that you can make your own stamps. Younger children can draw the design for you to cut out, while older children can cut the design out themselves.


Supplies you’ll need:

  • Cutting Set for Block Printing – We found one at our local craft store. The handle with five small interchangeable blades costs about ten dollars.
  • Carving Block or Polymer Erasers – The carving block I have is 4″ x 4″, and it cost just over two dollars. You can also use the white polymer erasers; three of them cost just under three dollars.
  • Pencil
  • Pen
  • Paper (optional)
  • Inkpad or marker

1. Begin by creating your stamp design. You can draw directly on the carving block or the eraser, or you can draw it out on the paper first. If you’re drawing on paper, start by tracing around the block you’ll be cutting, so you know how big your design can be. As you create your design, remember to make it bold and simple for easier cutting.

2. If you drew your design on the paper, you’ll need to transfer it to the carving block or eraser. To do this, simply flip the design over and align it with your carving block. Rub the back of your paper to transfer the design.  This will create a mirror image of your design. Trace over it once more with a pen on the carving block to make it easier to see.


3. Now you’re ready to start cutting. To create a stamp, you’ll want to cut away everything AROUND your design. The carving block is soft, and the different sizes of blades available in the cutting set make this easier.


4. Now test your stamp!  You can use an inkpad, or just rub over your stamp with a marker. Try it out on a piece of paper, and then make any final adjustments. You can affix your stamp to a block or wood, or just use it as it is.

5. Have fun with your new stamp, and start letterboxing!

The Story of the World

One of my favorite history curriculums for elementary students is The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer. Consisting of four volumes in all, this series is designed so students complete one volume per year. A great way for teaching history to multiple grade levels, this series can even be used with middle school students.

Volume 1: The Ancients covers from 5000 B.C. to 400 A.D.; Volume 2: The Middle Ages covers from 400  to 1600; Volume 3: Early Modern Times covers from 1600 – 1850; and Volume 4: The Modern Age covers from 1850 – 1994. Each book discusses what was happening around the world during a particular time period, so students have a better understanding of major events and how they affected various nations. For example, students learn that Napoleon’s financial troubles led him to sell the Louisiana territory to the United States, which in turn allowed westward expansion to continue. I have to smile when my fourth grader can tell me the connection between Napoleon and Thomas Jefferson!

What makes this such an enjoyable series for both the parent and child is the way in which it is written. Susan Bauer presents history as a story, a narrative meant to be read aloud to the students by a parent or teacher. It’s fun to read and fun to listen to. Sometimes my older children and I take turns reading a page, which gives them extra reading practice too.  The books are also available on CD, and I know several moms who use driving time as history time with this resource.

Of course, what makes history even more memorable are hands-on activities, and this curriculum provides these as well. Activity books are available for each of the volumes. These include map work, crafts, coloring pages, and reading lists. Tests for each volume can also be purchased – everything you’d need to teach and enjoy history!

Sylvan Dell Publishing

One of my late night hobbies is writing and illustrating for children. I enjoy writing articles, poems, and stories, and I’d like to illustrate my own picture books some day. Writers will tell you that to have a book published, you have to study the market and know who publishes the type of story you’ve written. As I’ve researched the different publishing houses, I’ve discovered Sylvan Dell, a small publishing company established by homeschoolers with education in mind.

Sylvan Dell publishes picture books about science and math — subjects such as the planets, sea turtles, rivers, and odd and even numbers are presented in a fun and enjoyable way. What makes these books different from other picture books, however, is that they are purposely created to be used in the home or school classroom. To reinforce the educational component, the company also adds three to five pages of extra activities and information in the back of every story. Now, though, they’ve added even more – their website also offers free online reading and math quizzes, teaching activities, and crafts.

And that’s not all.  For the past two years, the company also sponsored a writing contest for homeschooled high schoolers. Students followed the guidelines to create their own picture books, and winners received cash prizes and possible publication. I haven’t found information about a contest this year, but I hope they continue – what a great opportunity for students interested in writing.

I’ve found a number of Sylvan Dell books in our local library, and my children have really enjoyed them. It’s easy to take one of their books and create a unit study around it, especially for younger elementary students. So if you’re looking for a science lesson for your little one, check them out! Their titles can be found on their website at www.sylvandellpublishing.com.

By the way, I’ve only sent one picture book manuscript to them to consider for publication, and it was rejected. Ah, well!  They still publish great books!

The Birthday Banner

This past weekend, my youngest, Luke, turned five years old. For the past month, he and his eight-year-old sister Lillie have been planning the party – decorating treat bags, looking through catalogs for favors, deciding on cake decorations. And, of course, bringing out his birthday banner.

Birthday banners have become a favorite tradition in our family. It all began seven years ago when my second child, Cassie, turned three. We were living in what we thought would be just a temporary home – a single wide mobile home on the same property as the house we planned to renovate. Because we were going to be moving again soon (or so I thought – it actually took two years), I didn’t unpack photos or pictures for the walls.

When Cassie’s birthday came around after Christmas, we decorated with streamers and balloons, but there was still one large bare wall where the Christmas tree had been. To fill the space, I pulled out some large pieces of felt my mother had given me and decided to make a banner. I used the large pieces as background colors, then cut flowers, butterflies, and “HAPPY BIRTHDAY CASSIE!” out of the rest. My mother was living nearby at the time, so when I was finished gluing all of the pieces down, she secured them with stitching and added tabs across the top. We hung the banner on that bare wall with a curtain rod and two sticky hooks, and it filled the space perfectly!

Of course, as each of my other children’s birthdays rolled around that year, I had to make a special banner for them too. My mom had moved, so after I created the patterns for the designs, I sent them to her to sew together. She even made banners for my husband and myself. Now we all have our own birthday banner, which we hang in our living room at least two weeks before the big day. It’s one of our favorite family traditions, and one my children can take along with them even after they’re grown.